Fund set up for boy killed by Caltrain

By Michael Manekin

Friends and family of a 15-year-old boy struck and killed by a train at the San Bruno Caltrain station Saturday evening have set up a memorial fund.

Anthony Rea of South San Francisco was killed about 5:35 p.m. when he walked around a lowered crossing gate and into the path of a southbound train, Caltrain officials said.

A friend who witnessed the accident said Rea had just disembarked from a northbound train after a day of skateboarding in San Mateo. He got off the train, hopped back onto his skateboard and was hit by an oncoming train.

Rea never heard the train coming because he was listening to music through his headphones at full blast, according to 14-year-old Patrick Legaspi, who witnessed the accident.

Those who knew Rea best described him as a happy-go-lucky kid with a great smile and tons of positive energy, according to comments posted on an online message board.

He was also the only male in the house and wanted badly to become a mechanic so he could take care of his family, longtime neighbor Gina Tandra told the Times on Sunday. Dozens of friends and family planned to honor Rea Monday night at a candlelight vigil in South San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Transit Operations Division is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, department spokesman Lt. Marc Alcantara said Monday. The spokesman could not estimate when the investigators would complete the report on Rea's death.

The San Mateo County Coroner's Office is also investigating to confirm whether Rea's death was accidental.

"Any fatality is regrettable, no matter what the circumstances are. But just like everyone else, we're even more touched when it's a young person," Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. "If there's any good at all that can come from something like this, it heightens the awareness of how careful you need to be (when crossing the tracks.)"

Dunn said she had visited San Mateo High School one day before Rea was killed to give safety tips to a class of teenagers.

"We just have to keep reiterating over and over that people need to exercise caution when they're crossing the tracks, and they need to remember never to go around a lowered gate," Dunn said. "It sounds like such a simple thing to do, and yet we have to keep saying it."

Saturday's death was the fifth Caltrain fatality this year. In 2007, the agency recorded eight deaths, far below the 17 deaths of 2006.

"I wish we knew (why there were fewer deaths), because we'd do it again," Dunn said. "But there is no particular pattern, there's no time of day, day of week, profile of the type of person - there just isn't any one thing that comes to the fore to help address that."

Caltrain should consider installing a special pedestrian crossing to avoid such accidents, said Ron Fenech, a 60-year-old resident of El Granada who witnessed the death of a Capuchino High School student at the same San Bruno station some 15 to 20 years ago.

"Kids are kids, and I know a lot of people say he wasn't paying attention ... but the crossing arm doesn't do anything," Fenech said. "No matter what (Rea) did or didn't do, this could have been stopped."

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the Anthony Rea Memorial Fund is asked to send check made out to Rea's grandmother: Amparo Esteban, 1565 El Camino Real, #403, South San Francisco 94080.

Staff writer Julia Scott contributed to this story.

Copyright ©2008 San Mateo County Times. Published 04/22/2008.